Mezcal vs. Tequila: The Ultimate Comparison

Tequila has become incredibly popular in the US over the last couple of decades. Patron, Jose Cuervo, Don Julio, and others have all dominated American bars.

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However, there is another spirit that’s quickly becoming become a favorite among tequila drinkers that you may want to try for yourself. Mezcal is a drink with a lot in common with tequila. However, it has its own unique style and distinctive taste that sets it apart from its cousin.

The lesser known Mezcal has been making a splash but not as many people are familiar with how it tastes in comparison to tequila.

Tequila and Mezcal are both made from the same plant in Mexico where they originate, but the process in which they are made differs greatly.

In this article we’ll give you all the major differences between the two and when one would be preferred in a cocktail over the other.

We’ll also inform you on how the two are made and some of the most popular cocktails that use tequila or mezcal today.

Mezcal vs Tequila: The Ultimate Showdown

Even though the two are made from different plants there is still a significant difference between the two.

One sip and you’d be able to tell pretty quickly what makes them different but it wouldn’t tell you their full story.

What Is Mezcal?

If you’re wondering what is Mezcal made from, it’s the agave plant which is also used to make tequila but mezcal is known as the parent Mexican spirit.

That means all tequilas are technically a mezcal, but there’s a different mezcal production process.

Mezcal can be made from a variety of different agave hearts and isn’t restricted to a specific region of Mexico.

Even though mezcal is made from agave when it is processed the leaves are roasted before being crushed to extract the sugars.

That’s what gives mezcal its famous smoky flavor compared to tequila. It has a rich taste and more complexity on your taste buds compared to tequila.

Mezcal producer typically prices their bottles higher compared to tequila and that is due to both the number of producers and the extra process required to make them. However, you could find prices of tequila that are just as much if not higher than mezcal.

What Is Tequila

Tequila is a specific kind of mezcal that uses the blue agave plant only and is only produced in a specific different region of Mexico.

Michoacán, Guanajuato, Nayarit, Tamaulipas, and Jalisco are all parts of Mexico that are allowed to produce tequila.

Tequila has been around for longer than mezcal as it was first made in the 1500s. In fact, that is what mezcal was referred to until 2006 when a new set of rules for what can be called a tequila came out and they separated it from being a mezcal.

Tequila comes in three distinctly different types; joven, reposado, and añejo tequila. The different classifications stand for the amount of time each one rests inside oak barrels.

Tequila typically has a bigger bite than mezcal because it lacks the smooth, smoky finish but the higher-end brands smooth out the strong alcohol taste.

There are all different kinds of tequilas that exist with slightly different flavor profiles even though they are made from the blue weber agave.

You’ll be able to find tequila bottles that aren’t as much on average as mezcal but you’ll also be able to find ones that cost a ton of money.

When to Use Mezcal Tequila Spirits

Because Mezcal has a smokier flavor, it’s best used in drinks that already have a pretty savory profile.

Cocktails like an Old Fashioned, Negroni, or Sazerac are going to naturally mix better when you substitute mezcal for any of the base alcohols the recipe calls for.

You can even use mezcal in place of a lot of the drinks that already come with tequila. Margaritas or a Paloma will go really well with mezcal and you might even enjoy the flavor so much you will never go back to tequila.

Some drinks even mix mezcal and tequila together because you don’t need a ton of mezcal in a drink to taste the profile.

Whenever you need something a little extra to bring some more complexity to your drinks, try using a little mezcal instead of tequila.

Popular Mezcal and Tequila cocktails

If you’re still wondering what is the difference between mezcal and tequila, perhaps the best way to show you is through a list of popular cocktails you can try.

It’s the easiest way to get familiar with the alcohols, how they taste, and how they mix with the different ingredients in a cocktail.

Below are some of the most popular cocktails made with each type of agave spirit and a little description of each.

Popular Tequila Cocktails

You won’t find cocktails that are as popular as the ones listed below. If you have a party coming up or just want to try something different at home, you can’t go wrong with these tequila cocktails.

Margarita

You don’t need anything too fancy to make yourself a delicious margarita.

All you need are your three primary ingredients; tequila, orange liqueur, and lime juice. Shake it up with ice, pour the concoction into a glass of your choice over some more ice.

Finish by squeezing in another lime wedge so you can get an extra flavor burst from the citrusy fruit.

This one is best made in a pitcher because you’ll have people asking for a refill every five minutes but margaritas go fast.

Paloma

The Paloma is the perfect choice for anyone that likes a little sweet-tartness in their cocktails.

The fun part is you don’t even need to add any extra ingredients. Just pour yourself a glass of grapefruit soda with ice and then pour the tequila over the top into your drink.

You might throw in some salt around the rim of your glass for an added kick but that’s optional.

The Paloma is the perfect way to enjoy a hot day with a cool, refreshing drink that has a taste unlike any other.

Tequila Sunrise

You can’t get much simpler than the Tequila Sunrise.

Mix equal parts of tequila, orange juice, and grenadine syrup over ice and you’re going to have a delicious drink in no time at all.

If you really want to make it taste even better, put a little bit of lime or lemon juice in there as well for a little extra kick.

Make sure you layer the colors well so that you can get the full effect of the sunrise in your drink.

It’s a fun one to serve guests too, although it takes a little longer to make than others because of the layering.

Ranch Water

This one is a reminder of the past when ranchers used to make their own mixed drinks while spending long times out in the pasture.

It’s a simple recipe that combines tequila, lemon juice, and soda water.

You can make a ton of this drink ahead of time so that way you have some more ready when a second glass is needed.

Even though these are popular tequila recipes you can really mix mezcal into any of them and they’ll still taste just as great.

Popular Mezcal Cocktails

You’ll find some of the same classic cocktails you know about but with a little mezcal twist added to them in the list below.

Each one of these mezcal recipes is sure to be a hit the next time you have guests over or just want to try something different in your home.

After all, there’s always room for another great recipe no matter what kind of drink you’re serving.

Mezcal Margarita

The classic margarita is taken to an entirely different level with some mezcal added to it.

All you need to do is substitute a little bit of tequila with mezcal and that’s really all there is to it.

The mezcal will add another layer of flavor to your drinking experience and, if you really want to get fancy, you could even smoke your margarita.

Smoking machines are small and help add even more smoky flavor to the drink.

Mezcal Negroni

The negroni is already filled with savory flavors from the vermouth and Campari so adding a little smokiness from the mezcal is going to give it a real kick.

The negroni is best for sipping after a long dinner where you have some time to unwind and don’t want to rush anything.

This is a wonderfully balanced cocktail that makes a real difference when you add the mezcal instead of the gin.

Naked and Famous

The naked and famous is a mix of Chartreuse, Aperol, and some lime but instead of using gin, you’re going to substitute it with mezcal.

You really don’t have to add too much Aperol because when combined with the sweet and smoky flavors from the mezcal it’s going to give a great change of flavor.

The color of this drink really makes it stand out from others and makes it almost irresistible to the palate.

You’ll want to give this drink a little lime wedge on top to make it really come together.

Mezcal Paloma

We have already covered the Paloma in the best cocktails for tequila, but when you substitute some mezcal, it becomes a completely different drink.

The Paloma goes well at any time of the day so you can have it for brunch with friends or you can have it after dinner when you want something refreshing to cool down with.

You’ll love the flavor of the mezcal mixed with grapefruit soda, making it a little tart and sweet at the same time.

Types of Tequila

Mezcal vs. Tequila: (+Mezcal Negroni)

These recipes are sure to please. So, gather your family and friends and enjoy. Let us know your thoughts!
5 from 7 votes
Total Time 9 mins
Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Servings 2
Calories 275 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 oz Mezcal
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz Campari
  • Garnish with orange half-slice

Instructions
 

  • Add the Campari, mezcal, and sweet vermouth into ice-filled mixing glass.
  • Stir until mixture is well-chilled.
  • Strain and pour the mixture into a rocks glass over a single large ice cube.
  • Garnish the drink with an orange half-slice.

Notes

Select your favorite recipe.
Organize all the required ingredients.
Enjoy the food.

Nutrition

Calories: 275kcal
Keyword mezcal negroni, mezcal vs. tequila
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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